A Coming Dark Age for Innovation?

Rob Hof

This will come as news to anyone whose VCR is still blinking 12:00--oh wait, who has a VCR anymore? A provocative view from Jonathan Huebner, a physicist at the Pentagon's Naval Air Warfare Center in China Lake, California, holds that technological innovation has actually been slowing down for more than a century. Huebner, whose paper will appear in the September issue of Technological Forecasting & Social Change, came to this conclusion by studying the number of patents issued per person and examining a list of thousands of innovations. Needless to say, many people disagree. I'm doubtful that Huebner's right, and in any case, measuring innovation would seem to be a highly subjective undertaking. But since I can't find the working paper, it's tough to sort out the arguments myself (link, anyone?). But the controversy, like the one over Nick Carr's contention a couple of years ago that information technology is mature, should make for interesting reading.

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